Dan Phillips of The Phoenix Commotion is my hero. He builds low income housing made out of salvaged, recycled materials. Recently featured on MSNBC, he talked about how his homes are not a hodgepodge of different materials. Instead his houses are whimsical, thought provoking, and warm.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a complete set of anything because repetition creates pattern, repetition creates pattern, repetition creates pattern,” said Mr. Phillips, who is slight and sinewy with a long gray ponytail and bushy mustache.” (Source: NY Times article.)
Why am I so taken by his homes? His imagination. Take a look at some of his homes. He designs his homes based upon the salvaged materials he has. Today, most people design a home, then buy new materials (green or otherwise) to build it. This building model does not seem right when there are so many salvaged materials available.
I also admire his vision on how to make the world a better, more affordable place. In the MSNBC video, he admitted that 90% of his materials are free except for shipping. In turn, this lowers his cost to build so that he can offer his homes below market value to someone who could not ordinarily afford his homes. He has created a sustainable building business model that can be used by other builders throughout the country.
In the video, he share with some of his house designs. One has a roof made out of license plates; another has a ceiling made out of frames. One house’s trim is decorated with animal bones. I know that probably sound disgusting but if you see the house, the bones give the house a rustic look. According to a NY Time Article,
“Freed by necessity from what he calls the “tyranny of the two-by-four and four-by-eight,” common sizes for studs and sheets of plywood, respectively, Mr. Phillips makes use of end cuts discarded by other builders — he nails them together into sturdy and visually interesting grids. He also makes use of mismatched bricks, shards of ceramic tiles, shattered mirrors, bottle butts, wine corks, old DVDs and even bones from nearby cattle yards.”
Most of his “finds” come from the side of the road, the trash, or salvaged from other construction sites. In addition, he provides jobs to unskilled laborers and teaches them a trade. He is a self-taught plumber, electrician, and carpenter.
The green movement is here to stay and particularly the green building industry. When you think of green building, doesn’t new materials come to mind? But is new always better? Lately, I have been cringing more and more every time I hear about people buying an amazing sustainable green building material when there are so many old materials that could be used. Do you need to buy a new bamboo floor when perhaps using a salvaged old growth floor might do? Better yet, why not try and salvage or re-use your old floor in another way such as molding, wainscoting, or ceiling decoration?
Phillips and I share the same philospy. He states in a Houston Heroes’ article:
“We are slowly denuding the planet,” Phillips says. “We can’t continue to live this way. We throw away and buy new rather than repair and re-use,” he adds. “We need to use renewable resources and use non-renewables carefully.”
Have materials to donate or want to help Phillips? See what Phillips could use. (He could use a Fireman’s pole, wine corks, and camcorder, just to name a few items on his list.)
It is funny that I am writing about Phillips two and half years after I started Green Talk. My second post on the site in April, 2007 was about Build it Green!, a Queens, NY-based warehouse full of salvage building materials. Many of the materials were brand new and were basically builders’ overages. Just to give you an example of the materials at this salvage center, there was Prego flooring, Jacuzzi tubs, and kitchen cabinets in perfect condition. The best part… the price. A fraction of what you would pay at a retail shop.
Just a word of caution, not all salvage stores have amazing treasures. Queens is a little far for me so I periodically visit a Habitat for Humanity’s Restores and found their merchandise to be kind of a hit or miss for me. But if you find a hit, it is such a high. Every location is different based upon who supplies the store. If you want to find your nearest salvage center, visit the links on my NYC Build it Green article. In addition, if you are looking for something special or bigger quantities of a particular item, contact PlanetReuse. The Company brokers salvage material.
Other places to look? Craigslist, Freecycle, and the curb. On trash day, some many people purge great furniture and other items. I recently walked home with a hose reel and a large wicker basket for my garden. Many times, I have been tempted to pull off the road to stash a great looking chair in my car that needs some TLC.
So if you are thinking of remodeling or building new, consider following Dan Phillips’ lead and think inside the salvage box.
- PlanetReuse Brokers Salvage Building Materials to help Build Green
- Recycled Window House Married Beauty and Harmony
- Building Supply Salvage Centers—Where a Bargain Lessens Your Carbon Footprint
- Vote For Green Talk for GREEN LOG Home Lifestyle Awards
- Needle Point Homes Reveals Essential Ideas to Build Energy Efficient